Chile: court lifts sentence for murder of singer by torture

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – A Chilean court on Tuesday increased the prison sentence for six former soldiers convicted in one of the most notorious murders of the former military dictatorship – the kidnapping, torture and murder of the folk singer Víctor Jara – as well as that of a government official.

The Court of Appeal said the six should spend 25 years in prison instead of the 18-year sentence imposed on their 2018 conviction. A seventh veteran has seen his sentence increased from five to eight years.

Jara, a popular singer and university professor, was a staunch supporter of Marxist President Salvador Allende and was arrested just hours after General Augusto Pinochet attacked the presidential palace and overthrew Allende on September 11, 1973.

Jara was taken to what was then the National Stadium along with thousands of other prisoners. His hands and head were beaten and he received at least 44 bullets as a warning to those who might challenge Pinochet’s authority.

The case also involved Allende’s prison director, Littré Quiroga. who was also tortured and killed at the stadium, apparently because of the mistreatment of an officer who had previously attempted a coup.

The appeals court said the original judges mistakenly classified the crimes as less serious than they were. He said the treatment of the victims was “demonstrative of the absurdity and visceral hatred” aroused against them.

“This decision is also important because it now definitively overcomes the impunity that has been shown for these crimes for so many years,” said Nelson Caucoto, lawyer for Jara’s family.

The court said that upon his arrest, Jara was seen “visibly deteriorated, physically and mentally, his face swollen with countless bruises, his hands bloody and deformed, his fingers evidently broken or fractured”.

In total, the judges said, Jara had 56 bone fractures in addition to the 44 gunshot wounds. Quiroga had received 23 bullets.

The bodies of the two men were dumped on a dusty street near the Metropolitan Cemetery and then taken to the morgue, where someone recognized Jara and secretly informed his wife, British dancer Joan Turner Jara.

The family managed to have his body exhumed for an autopsy in 2009.

Official investigations count more than 3,000 people killed by the 17-year-old military regime,

The stadium where Jara was killed has since been renamed in his honor.

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